That was the fundamental question at a meeting of borough officials in Great Bend on the evening of February 19th. Members of the Councils of Great Bend, Hallstead and New Milford Boroughs – 14 in all – gathered to consider how much they were willing to pay to support the Great Bend Police Department that contracts services to its neighbors. In the end they decided to punt for another month.
Great Bend Mayor Jim Riecke, who oversees the police department, opened the meeting by declaring that Great Bend is considering increasing the hourly contract rate from $39 to $42. Officer in Charge Katie Stanziale, who was present at the meeting, has asked for a substantial increase in pay for her officers, as well as a commitment to annual pay increases, and an increase in allowance for uniforms.
Currently, officers are paid $18 per hour for daytime shifts, and $20 per hour for nighttime and weekend shifts. Naturally, most of the part-time officers choose to work the off hours, at least in part because they all have other jobs; the Great Bend Council has already been considering flattening the pay schedule at $20 per hour. OIC Stanziale herself gets a flat $21 per hour; she puts in the most hours by far, and says that most of her time is spent on administrative functions; the old police department that went defunct a decade ago had a secretary, but no one is proposing that now.
Ms. Stanziale has often told her council how difficult it is to recruit officers at these rates, since, once certified, they can command far higher wages in more affluent cities. On the other hand, she also told the meeting that "nobody can get people;" even the state police are having trouble recruiting new troopers. Any qualified officer is going to be looking for a job that "pays more, with better hours." (Mr. Riecke also mentioned the possibility that Ms. Stanziale herself is considering another position.)
Currently, New Milford Borough contracts for up to 40 hours per month. Hallstead gets somewhat less; they are mostly concerned with parking issues, while New Milford has recently been plagued by vandalism. All three towns want to control speeding along US 1, which is Main Street to all of them.
The contract price includes some substantial overhead: the maintenance of an office in Great Bend, computer services, fuel and maintenance on the department's vehicles, uniforms and vests, training and certification, ammunition, radios, court time, etc.
While all of the boroughs recognize the deterrent effect of a local police presence – and Hallstead has seen a decline in parking issues since tickets have been issued – all of them are also under similar budget constraints. As Kerin Welch put it, New Milford can't even afford an annual raise for its own two employees. For small towns like these, raising enough taxes to pay for such services may not be realistic. Great Bend's Jerry MacConnell noted that many of his borough's residents are on fixed incomes.
Ms. Stanziale did clarify what residents should do, and can expect, if they have a problem. First, call 911. If it's a real emergency, the call center will try to contact the Great Bend Police Department. If no one there is on duty, then the State Police are called out. If it's not a true emergency, Great Bend will be notified to deal with it when someone is on duty.
For now, each borough will have to ruminate about the issue and come to its own conclusions. The group agreed to meet again on March 25, 2024 at 6:30pm in Great Bend after each council has met to discuss among themselves.
In December, 26 students from Mountain View Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) competed in a wide range of topics at the 2023 FBLA Region 27 Leadership Conference held at Lackawanna College. Students had the opportunity to attend leadership workshops that ranged from sports in business, to are you smarter than your region officers as well as a lot of networking with other schools in our area.
Members of the Mt. View FBLA attending the Region 27 Leadership Conference pictured (l-r) are: front row - Johnathan Pue, Kacey Bloxham, Kennedy Calabro, Addison Tompkins, Vivian Sedlak, Coralynn McHenry, Riley Turner, Mimi Sedlak, Chelsea Empet, Emily Trichilo, Tori Teel, Sophia Davis, Abbie Mitchell; back row - James Schoffstall, Braeden Alvord, Collin Pliska, Richter Masters, Shane Toolan, Luke Zipprich, Ryleigh Kilmer, Paige Smith, Nevaeh O'Shea, Kylie Barhite, Maddy Resseguie, Maddie Yachymiak.
Of the 26 students, 17 placed high enough to attend the State Leadership Conference in April.
The results were as follows:
The states team will head to Hershey in April where they will compete on the state level, attend leadership workshops and receive awards at the Giant Center.
Curator Bonnie Yuscavage gave a warm welcome to guests who attended the February 20th Board meeting of the Susquehanna County Historical Society and Free Library Association which was held at the Historical Society building on Monument Street in Montrose. Ms. Yuscavage reiterated some of the information given at the January meeting, which was that the Historical Society building is in need of window repairs, and while grants have been applied for, there is no guarantee that any grant money will be received or that the grant money received will cover the full cost of the needed improvements. Also still to be accomplished is the relocation of the original bookshelves in the basement of the Society to the Forest City branch. Several contractors have come to look at the project but none have yet entered a bid. The Board continues to look for an interested and qualified contractor but will also be reaching out to the Susquehanna County Career and Technical Center to see if the students there can be of any assistance. The Society will also be looking to preserve its front steps and is seeking professional input on how to accomplish that end. Additionally, Ms. Yuscavage shared that they would be hosting two field trips in the coming months and that students of any age are welcome for more trips. She also gave accolades to the Friends of the Historical Society for all of their dedicated work into keeping the Society a place where members of the public want to visit.
Regarding the finances of the Association, Treasurer Rob Vermette shared that the finance committee had had a few meetings in the last few weeks and had several changes to make to its operations. After some discussion and pursuant to a request from the finance committee, the Board passed a motion to restrict the usage of the McKeage endowment for the purpose of accomplishing non-routine maintenance and capital improvements of the Historical Society property. Mr. Vermette also shared that they were looking to increase the internal controls of bank accounts, and reconciliations would begin to be accomplished starting on a quarterly basis, to be adjusted more frequently as needed. Director Kris Ely explained that the decision had been made to switch the main account of the Association to Peoples Security Bank and Trust (PSBT), but that the state funding had been deposited into First National Bank (FNB) (the OLD main account), so a motion was needed to move the $281K. This motion was passed unanimously.
Board member Brian Lione began to explain changes being proposed by the policy committee to the personnel policy and the patron code of conduct. While the personnel policy changes were fiscal and legal in nature, proposed changes include shoes and shirts being required, designating smoking/vaping areas, and declaring that library staff are not responsible for watching unaccompanied children. Member of the public, Ron Parsons, asked what defined a child and what library staff were supposed to do with unaccompanied children. Ms. Ely stated that "child" was not being defined, and that it would be situation dependent. She explained that at the Montrose branch, school students must be given a pass to go to the library building, and this would continue to be allowed, but children coming in off the street would not be permissible. Mr. Parsons felt that the Board would be opening itself up for liability if it did not define "child" and if it did not lay out a procedure for handling such situations. There was more back-and-forth, and ultimately, it was decided that the policy would simply state that children cannot be unattended.
To close the meeting, member of the public Dava Rinehart-Cowan requested to know if the Board had any plans to return money to the McKeage endowment that had been improperly spent. Mr. Vermette and Mr. Spero responded that building the library was an allowable use of the money, because the will read that the money was to be used for the maintenance of the historical society, but not limited to maintenance. Mr. Spero then stated that they also didn't have the money to return it. Ms. Rinehart-Cowan suggested a repayment plan over several years in an effort to honor the wishes of Ms. McKeage.
The meeting was adjourned with the Board looking forward to its March 18th meeting at its Forest City branch.
Harford Township will spend about $200,000 to purchase and outfit a new truck. The truck itself will come from Sherwood; it will be "upfitted" with dump box, plow, spreader and associated equipment by John Bonham. Nearly all of the cost will be covered by a grant of $100,000 and the proceeds from the sale of an older truck for a similar amount. Drivers with CDL being hard to come by these days, the township is converting all of its trucks to smaller models that don't require drivers with commercial licenses.
That was the major item on the agenda for the Supervisors' meeting on February 20th. The last time they met was for the annual reorganization meeting on January 2. At that time they noted that renewing the NPDES (National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System) permit for the sewage treatment plant added a new requirement from the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) that the effluent from the plant be monitored and recorded daily, weekends and holidays included. The township's engineers, JHA, suggested that it might be cheaper to hire someone locally for this. However, since that could be problematic, the Supervisors have decided to let JHA handle it.
JHA is also in charge of the $2 million renovation of the sewer plant. The bill list this month shows a payment of over $386,000 to Pioneer Construction for part of this work, with another nearly $6,000 to JHA for the same.
The Harford Township Supervisors meet on the third Tuesday of each month beginning at 7:00pm in the Township building on Route 547.